Probe Of Multiple Deaths Finds Indian Hospital Uses Industrial Gas For Anaesthesia

by Kim Boateng Posted on October 4th, 2017

Varanasi, India: A joint investigation team of the Centre and UP government, probing an unusually high number of deaths within three days in the surgery ward of a hospital attached to the controversy-hit Banaras Hindu University, has found that industrial-grade gas, not permitted in medicine, was being used for administering anaesthesia to patients undergoing surgery.

At least 14 surgery patients had lost their lives between June 6 and 8 this year at BHU’s Sundar Lal Hospital, prompting the Allahabad high court to order a probe.

“It has been found that nitrous oxide of non-pharmacopoeial grade was being used at this hospital. This gas doesn’t come under the category of allowed drugs,” said the UP Food Safety and Drug Administration’s probe report dated July 18, a copy of which is with TOI. Whether the use of industrial-grade nitrous oxide (N2O) was directly responsible for the deaths in the hospital is still under investigation, officials said.

The report said Parerhat Industrial Enterprises, an Allahabad-based private firm which was supplying the nitrous oxide, did not have any licence to produce or sell any medical gas.

The firm’s director, Ashok Kumar Bajpai, is the father of BJP’s Allahabad North MLA Harshvardhan Bajpai, who owns Rs 1.21 crore in shares in Parerhat Industrial Enterprises.

The firm is part of the familyrun Parerhat group of industries that has interests in steel, chemicals, foundries, paper mills and solar power.

‘Firm has no licence to produce N2O or oxygen’

This firm’s unit at 42, Industrial Colony, Chak Dawood Nagar, Naini, Allahabad has been issued no license by the food safety department of UP government to manufacture or produce any medical gas. Therefore the firm has neither license to produce medical nitrogen oxide nor oxygen,” says an RTI reply by K G Gupta, assistant drug inspector, Allahabad, which is part of the report.

Harshvardhan Bajpai, while admitted that his firm didn’t have a licence to produce medical N2O, dismissed the charge that the gas had led to the deaths. “The same gas is being supplied to hospitals at King George’s Medical University in Lucknow and Motilal Nehru Medical College in Allahabad.

An FIR alleging medical negligence was separately registered at Lanka police station on June 14, following a complaint by the family of an Allahabad resident, Mehraj Ahmad, who was one of those who had died allegedly after being administered anaesthesia prior to a surgery to remove kidney stones. Four doctors including Dr P Ranjan, the head of anaesthesia wing, were named in the complaint.

The report also mentions that both the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSO), Ghaziabad, and a fact-finding committee of BHU had endorsed the findings on June 9.

Photo: Banaras Hindu University, BHU, Hospial

If the probe does ultimately conclude that the wrong gas being used caused the deaths of several patients – or even contributed to it – those responsible for this situation must face the wrath of the law. They must be prosecuted for culpable homicide. Even if this is not established, there must be strict action against and prosecution of the guilty officials who colluded to give a contract for supply of pharmacological nitrous oxide to a company not licensed to produce it.

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